Yip Man is the alter-ego of Scottish songwriter Al Nero, the former frontman of blissful guitar slingers Le Reno Amps and the co-founder of Glasgow’s Armellodie Records. Since Le Reno Amps bowed out in 2011 one might be forgiven for thinking that outside of co-running Armellodie Nero has been somewhat idle. In truth he has been undergoing metamorphosis. He’s been away. Al Nero went to China… Yip Man came back.
From the explosion of the lop-sided opener “Barnburner” and the synth-riddled rocking of “Not That Easy”, to the Calypso carnival of “For Your Own Good” and Pavement-esque brain-rockin’ of “Skinny White Ghost”. The songs on Braw Power find Nero lyrically and poetically tackling his own existential ennui, whilst sounding like a man who just found the last Golden Ticket in his Wonka Bar.
There is a world-weary sarcasm in the lyrics, a black humour, and sometimes a barely withheld anger. This creeps into the music as well, and we start to hear dissonance, unusual rhythms and chromatic melody upsetting and mutating the kind of songs that might otherwise have had something of the simplicity of the Ramones.
Yip Man brings it all, inadequacy, lies, loss, bitterness, infidelity, empty beds and the horrible certainty that whatever he’s just got over, he’s doomed to live through again and again. It’s no accident that “Stuck on Repeat” reappears as the album’s ominous coda. Nero’s metamorphosis into Yip Man might not have been a gruesome Kafkaesque shift in species, but it has produced a darker, smarter and completely unapologetic writer of intelligent pop songs, stuffed full of unusual ideas and fresh interpretations of trope.
With grand ambitions tempered by a homely charm, you can be sure that whatever life throws at Yip Man, he’ll bat it straight back with his killer hooks.